Very Simplified: Three Tips on How to Take Great Photos

I’m a (way) amateur photographer who has been fortunate enough to 1) take a photojournalism class in college 2) be surrounded by family members who are good photographers and 3) have a really good Nikon digital camera. So, I’ve picked up some really simple photo tricks that I think anyone can benefit from. These are really the basic oft-repeated sentiments in photography.

Rule 1. Very simple: Get close to your subject. The closer you get, the more details you see.



Rule 2. Don’t center your subject in the very middle of the photo, which as you’ll notice above, is what I didn’t do with the yellow flower and the subway lamp. This gives your subject an inherent movement, like it’s springing forward, and you see the interesting background. These are inanimate shots, but do the same with people and pets — look for the movement, and when you have a digital camera, experiment with how you frame objects, taking both horizontal and vertical shots, too.

Below is a pic my friend Dora took of me on a beach. She smartly shifted me off to the side, to show what I was looking at: a rapidly fading sunset. During our little mini-trip to Puerto Rico, I taught Dora this framing tip and she picked it up really quick, taking many nice photos.


This rule also applies to landscape shots. Putting the horizon in the very center of the photo is usually snooze inducing. A quick way to take a fun photo is to get down on the ground, and get the foreground, like grass or snow, in the photo.

Rule 3. Look for patterns, color, light and offbeat inspirations. This rule applies anytime, but here we’ll apply it to the time when most of us take lots of pictures: during a vacation. And too many vacation photos show the wifey at beach, wifey at dinner, wifey parasailing, you get the idea. They don’t show the local flavor of the place you visited. They won’t be used on the cover of a travel guidebook.

But this one, which I took in a Mexico-Texas border town, could be used, because it sums up pattern, color, light and an offbeat subject matter. And it strictly follows Rule 1, it’s close-up, so close you can see the tiny pricetags haphazardly placed on each pair of boots.


And note the pattern of sky, clouds and water here, along with the kayak paddle reinforcing the vertically framed shot:


One thought on “Very Simplified: Three Tips on How to Take Great Photos

  1. DKN says:

    You are modest, Joy. You may not be a pro but you have some mad skills. The boots you shot in Mexico is my all time favorite of yours. I think digital cameras have been revolutionary for the amateur photographer. My dad has taken some gorgeous photos over the years but he always complained about what an expensive hobby it was. Luckily he had access to dark rooms through friends of his but the photos always came in spurts depending on how much time he had. Ever since we upgraded him to digital the pics have been non stop.

    We went to PR exactly a year ago! I’ve been thinking about it so much this week. I need to look at our pictures again! Going to do that right now… And thanks for the lessons, btw 🙂

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